The lawyer of a Norwegian who killed at least 76 people in a bombing and a shooting spree said on Tuesday his client appeared to be a madman.
“This whole case indicated that he is insane,” Geir Lippestad said of Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to “atrocious but necessary” actions, but denies he is a criminal.
The lawyer said it was too early to say if Breivik would plead insanity at his trial, expected to be a year away.
Lippestad said Breivik had stated he belonged to an anti-Islam network that has two cells in Norway and more abroad. Norwegian police and researchers have cast doubt on whether such an organisation exists.
Police believe Breivik probably acted alone in staging his bloody assaults, which have united Norwegians in revulsion.
Justice Minister Knut Storberget hailed “fantastic” police work after the attacks, deflecting criticisms that police had reacted too slowly to the shooting massacre. “It is very important that we have an open and critical approach...but there is a time for everything,” Storberget told reporters after talks with Oslo’s police chief.
An armed SWAT team took more than an hour to reach Utoeya island, where Breivik was coolly shooting terrified youngsters at a ruling Labour Party youth camp. He killed 68 there and eight in an earlier bombing of Oslo’s government district.
Storberget also denied police had ignored threats posed by right-wing zealots in Norway. “I reject suggestions that we have not had the far-right under the microscope,” he said.
Many Norwegians seem to agree the police do not deserve opprobrium for their response. At a march of more than 100,000 in Oslo on Monday night, people applauded rescue workers.
UK group admits links with killer
After initial denial, the far-right English Defence League (EDL) has admitted that Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik had links to the group.
Breivik reportedly met leaders of the EDL in March last year when he came to London for the visit of Geert Wilders, the Dutch right-wing politician.
Daryl Hobson, who organises EDL demonstrations, said Breivik had met members of the group.
Hobson said in an online posting: “He had about 150 EDL on his list ... barring one or two doubt the rest of us ever met him, altho [sic] he did come over for one of our demo [sic] in 2010 ... but what he did was wrong. RIP to all who died as a result of his actions.”
Scotland Yard was investigating Breivik’s claims that he began his deadly “crusade” after being recruited to a secret society in London, and that he was guided by an English “mentor.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said Breivik's claims were being taken “extremely seriously.”